The weekend left me with a full belly, a sore throat, a bike seat-bruised behind. Clearly, this is the correct state in which to leave Amsterdam.
There is something about me that you might not know, and it is this: I never learned to ride a bike. When other children were running around the neighborhood playing tag and learning how to pedal their tiny two-wheeled conveyances, scraping knees in the process, I was spending afternoons at the dance studio or with a tutor. Growing up, I had never found it necessary to ride, living in LA where the automobile is king, so I didn’t. But in Amsterdam, bicycles are the best and most-used mode of transportation — upon stepping out of the central train station, you are greeted with a multi-level bicycle parking structure. And if I wanted to see the best the city had to offer, I would need to ride. We rented a tandem so that I needn’t learn to balance and navigate and pedal all at once, and went for a long, idyllic ride down the Amstel River.
How brilliant of the Dutch to dot a flat landscape with comely windmills. Without them, the countryside as seen from the train would have looked like any other farmland, vast, green, and furrowed; but with them, the view is so quintessentially Holland. It is agreeable to have the sudden realization, from one pretty, well-kept landmark, that one is in another country.
We rode into a small town a few miles outside of Amsterdam called Ouderkerk aan de Amstel where we stopped at a small restaurant by the river for our repast. Tim, our friend Thilmin (who was on vacation in Europe before heading off to business school), and I split plates of meatballs and bitterballen and schnitzel and cheese, washed down with good beer and breezes off the water, before biking back into the city.
Nights were spent exploring the belly of the city, gawking at the various bodies and objects on display in the red light district. Perhaps it is because I’ve only seen it before midnight or so, when it reputedly gets more seedy, but I found the brothels and coffee shops that Amsterdam is famous for to be rather tidy and matter-of-fact establishments, at least from the outside view.
I insisted on a visit to Hiding in Plain Sight, the cocktail bar that we had visited on our previous trip. It’s a bit out of the way, on the far eastern edge of the city, but it’s worth it — the ambiance, level of service, and the incredible drinks are not to be missed. And honestly, when else are you going to be able to drink out of a flaming skull?
Then back to our apartment, rented through AirBnB, to sleep off our cocktails and tired feet, only to wake up to bright sun or pattering rain, for a few relaxing hours lounging on our balcony before setting off on another day’s adventure.
Music to travel by: Carry On [Fun. // Some Nights]